YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF LENT
HOMILY THEME: HAVE A MOMENT WITH GOD
BY: Rev. Fr. Linus Terhemen Akase
HOMILY: Ezekiel 37:12-14; Psalm 130:1-2.3-4.7a.7b-8 (R.7b); Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45
Death is one of the fearful things that no one wants to hear about. It causes panic among humans. Some people can embrace poverty and any other suffering but not death. I prayed for one woman who was very old and sick. In the prayer I said that if her sickness cannot be healed, may God call her to rest with Him in Heaven. After the prayer, the woman was very angry with me. She warned me strongly never to pray that she should die. In fact, according to her, I am going to die before her. I was speechless! Fortunately, the prayer was effective. She later came and thanked me. It was during this time that I told her about the mystery of God as pertains to obtaining healing. The Church therefore wants us to look at the positive aspect of death thereby removing the fear and facing the reality of dying.
In the first reading, the people of Israel were in exile in the foreign land. In this place many of them were reduced to nothing. Some were killed either physically, mentally, socially and religiously. Some lost their lives yet God continue promising them restoration and reestablishment. However, as the suffering was much, many lost confidence in God. They wanted to look for ways of survival. It was during this time that God sent Prophet Ezekiel to give them this consoling prophecy. In this prophecy God says emphatically that He is going to raise the Israelites up – to restore them back to their land. Those who died will also be raised from their graves, full of God’s spirit and they shall inherit their land as before.
In the Gospel passage, we see how this prophecy is fulfilled in the life of Lazarus. Lazarus is a friend of Jesus. Jesus cares for him including his siblings. So, when he dies, Jesus has no option than to go and raise him up. The raising of Lazarus is a true indication that those who make Jesus their friend can never remained in the grave forever. To make Jesus our friend is not just a mere proclamation but a solemn promise coming from the heart; to learn how to to do the will of God. Once we are able to do so, then death will not be something that can make us panic.
What then can we do in order not to fear death? St. Paul tells us in the second reading that we are not to be in the flesh any longer for this displeases God. God’s spirit cannot dwell in the flesh (taking us back to the first reading where God promised to raise Israelites from the grave and give them His spirit). So to be in the spirit is to say NO to sin and YES to righteousness. Those who are in the flesh can kill, steal, destroy (Jn.10:10a). These are the people who fear death. In order not to die, they make the devil their friend who deceives them with charms and amulet. Those who are in the spirit make Jesus their friend and Jesus will never disappoint them.
Brethren, we have to befriend God always. Just as Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He will do it for you. In the face of Covid-19 pandemic, we see how some people who are ready to face the reality of death are making a lot of sacrifices – they are not afraid. A priest in Italy even offered his oxygen kit to the younger victim and died of the disease; some of them are looking after the victims to the detriment of their lives, etc. In all, Jesus is the answer – He is the Way, Truth and Resurrection (Jn.14:6). Let us go to Him and make Him our friend. Let us not panic because of the virus to take preventing measures against the disease. What we should be panic of is sin and if we are not prepared to die. By preparation, we have to be righteous (or at least make conscious effort to take amend of our sins). In this way we can know that we are no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit. May God grant eternal rest to those who have died of the pandemic and also remove fear from us who are still alive. Also, may He help us to find possible treatment for the victims. Happy Sunday and may bless you all.